gavel.jpgA union of San Francisco Superior Court workers announced today that 95 percent of its members voted to authorize a strike as negotiations for a new contract have stalled.

Members of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents the court clerks and other workers, announced the result of the vote at a news conference outside the San Francisco Hall of Justice this afternoon.

No potential date for a strike has been called yet. The vote to authorize one, which occurred Wednesday, comes after six unsuccessful bargaining sessions with Superior Court management, according to union officials.

“Our workers have spoken,” said Larry Bradshaw, vice president of the San Francisco branch of SEIU Local 1021. “It’s not our desire to strike, we want to get back to the (bargaining) table, but our members’ patience is wearing thin.”

San Francisco Superior Court negotiators are asking for a 5 percent pay cut to address ongoing state budget reductions, and SEIU is the only one of the court’s four unions to reject the proposal, according to court officials.

“I think that’s really unfortunate,” said J.M. Munoz, the court’s lead negotiator.

“We’ve shown them our books, and gone to them many, many times,” Munoz said. “The very first day we went to them, and the one thing that’s remained constant, we said we cannot afford to pay you even what we’re paying you now.”

He said the court’s budget is in even worse shape after the governor’s recent May Revision, which calls for a $544 million cut to the state’s judicial branch following more than $650 million in reductions in the past four fiscal years.

“Essentially we know now that even with a 5 percent pay cut, we would have to look at measures to reduce services to the public,” Munoz said. “There’s no possible way that we could make any more concessions to SEIU.”

SEIU officials at today’s news conference said they were tired of dealing with cuts.

“It’s getting to the point where we can’t cut anymore,” said Gary Feliciano, a deputy court clerk at the Civic Center Courthouse. “At what point do you just shut the doors and say ‘Hey there’s nothing left to cut, we’re closing up?'”

They also blamed what they said was poor decision-making and management by the state Administrative Office of the Courts, which disseminates the funding for each county superior court.

The state agency announced in March that it was dropping plans for a computerized court records system after spending more than $500 million on it.

“We have a lack of funding and a lack of leadership at the AOC,” Feliciano said.

Munoz said the court is prepared to impose a new contract with the 5 percent pay cut starting on July 1 if no new terms have been reached with the union.

In the event that the union calls a strike, essential services would continue, including criminal, unlawful detainer, civil harassment and juvenile delinquency cases, according to court officials.

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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